Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Holy Christ.... It was Cold!

Located 710m* atop Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park, Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) has become an icon of not only Rio de Janeiro but of all of Brazil. Almost as impressive as the statue itself, are the views of Rio and the surrounding areas from the platform at its base.

At night,
the brightly lit statue is visible from nearly every part of the city. Standing 39.6 metres (130 ft) tall, Christ has been watching over the city with outstretched arms since 1931. In 2007 Cristo Redentor was named one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World".**

It, along with Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf), are the most visited of the Rio de Janeiro sights. Despite being in Rio for 6 weeks, I did not visit Christ until my last week. The problem is they (mainly being Lonely Planet) say to go and visit on a clear day. Well, once the sun came out after a full week of rain the only thing I wanted to do was go to the beach. Hehe. Then came classes, and then more beach time (time was running out and I needed to get in as much tanning as possible before heading to Buenos Aires - where they actually have a winter), then more rain. I finally made plans with one of my old classmates Kristina to go up to the top on the Friday of both her and my last week in town. I wouldn't say it was the best day, as it was slightly cloudy, but considering the fact that it had again been raining the entire week, the small patches of blue sky were sufficient for us.

Our original plan was to walk up the mountain. Our teacher had told us that it was a lovely hike that took about 2-3 hours. Being somewhat of athletic and adventurous types we decided that we could totally handle the hike. Mads, on the other hand, thought we were crazy. "Have you seen the mountain?!?" she asked. "It's pretty much a vertical climb!" But we decided we could do it as we were sure that there had to be a path that would lead the way. After asking several employees and locals standing around the entrance, we realized that was not the case. The lady who sold the tickets to the tram told us it would take close to 4 hours and that we would be walking through favelas, not a smart thing to be doing at that time of day. While I am sure she was just trying to get us to pay the R$36, it seemed no one could point us in the proper direction. We were sent up random side streets, that branched off in many directions with no signs or people to show us the way. As it was getting to be a little after 1pm we decided walking probably was not the best idea and we ended up taking the tram after all.

The tram ride up the mountain was very beautiful. Kristina and I tried to look for paths along the way but did not see any clear passage ways. We decided the tram was a smart decision. This was especially true when we reached the top of Corcovado. Note: 710 m = 2,330 ft. That is really high, and on a somewhat cloudy and windy day it is REALLY cold at such a height. No one warned us to dress warmly. So, take this as a warning.... If you are going to visit Cristo Redentor
in the winter, bring a sweater/coat (something warmer than my JCrew cardi). I'd also wear pants, as I was freezing in my little shorts.

Despite being a cloudy and windy (read: cold) day, it was beautiful! The view from the top is really something. I figured it would be similar to Pão de Açúcar, and while it was in some ways - atop Cristo there was so much more to see. You could literally see ALL of the city. After taking the cheesy tourist shots with the statue, we walked around and took some great shots of the city (pic: me pointing out Ipanema Beach) and then quickly descended the mountain to escape from the cold.

* I do not understand why the United States in the ONLY country in the world to not follow the standard of measurement the rest of the world uses (metric system). When I see something in meters or Celsius I cannot easily determine the length/height or temperature without having to do a lengthy math equation (see below). When the thermometer outside reads 15°C (59°F) I don't know what that means, I just know it's cold. Just like I know 29°C (84°F) is hot (trust me I learned that the hard way on a 6k (3.73mile) run). As a world traveler it is very annoying! I think the United States needs to change over to the metric system.... England did it!

Formulas to use if you are an American abroad:
1 km= 0.621371192 miles
1 mile = 1.609344 km
F = 9/5*C + 32
C= (F-32)*5/9

** The "New Seven Wonders of the World" was a project that attempted to update the "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World" concept with a modern list of wonders (of the original list, only one remains standing, the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt.). A popularity poll was led by the Swiss-based "The New Open World Corporation" with winners announced on July 7, 2007. I have been to 4/7 wonders!! In addition I have also seen 4/14 finalists that did not make the list. See below designated with an (X).

New Seven Wonders of the World:
  1. Taj Mahal, Agra, India
  2. Chichen Itza, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico (X)
  3. Christ The Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (X)
  4. Roman Colosseum, Rome, Italy (X)
  5. Great Wall of China, China (X)
  6. Machu Picchu, Cuzco, Perú
  7. Petra, Jordan
The other finalists listed alphabetically, were:
  1. Acropolis of Athens, Athens, Greece
  2. Alhambra, Granada, Spain (X)
  3. Angkor Wat, Angkor, Cambodia (X)
  4. Eiffel Tower, Paris, France (X)
  5. Giza Pyramid Complex , Cairo, Egypt
  6. Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
  7. Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto, Japan
  8. Moai (Easter Island Statues), Easter Island, Chile
  9. Neuschwanstein Castle, Füssen, Germany
  10. Red Square, Moscow, Russia
  11. Statue of Liberty, New York City, U.S.A. (X)
  12. Stonehenge, Amesbury, United Kingdom
  13. Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia
  14. Timbuktu, Mali

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